RE/MAX 440
Mary Mastroeni
mmastroeni@remax.net
Mary Mastroeni
731 W Skippack Pike
Blue Bell  PA 19422
PH: 610-277-2900
O: 215-643-3200
C: 610-213-4878
F: 267-354-6212 
Welcome Home from RE/MAX 440!

Mary's Blog

6 Strategies to Help Avoid Credit Card Fees

November 11, 2011 3:48 pm

The credit card fee changes of a few several months ago are designed, like previous changes, to protect consumers by adding clarity and transparency to interactions between card issuers and holders.

However, as these new rules take away revenue opportunities for card companies, issuers are raising other fees or creating new ones to compensate. Money resource Bills.com cautions consumers to be aware of the new rules and also learn how to avoid new fees.

In order to avoid these fees, personal money resource Bills.com shares the following strategies consumers can employ to better avoid additional charges that have arisen because of changes outlined in the Credit CARD Act.

1. Monitor your communications from your credit card issuer. One of the best ways to stay abreast of changes specific to your cards or situation is to closely monitor information sent from your issuer. New regulations require much greater disclosure on all changes, so any update will be sent to your attention. Be alert for all mailings and read them carefully before throwing away or destroying.

2. Maintain prompt payment status with your credit card company. Despite all these changes, the simplest way to avoid fees is to pay your credit card bills on time. By missing or being late on a payment you will incur fees, potentially increase your interest rate and lower your overall credit score.

3. Pay down high balances to improve credit card utilization. This will show that you can responsibly manage your credit limit, minimizing the chance of higher tiers of interest rates or reductions in credit limit. Additionally, better credit utilization will help boost your credit score.

4. Maintain activity on your credit card accounts. By using the revolving credit lines that you need or want to keep and promptly paying on them, you can help avoid cancellation of those credit card accounts. This will also help avoid faux inactivity fees and help boost your credit score, while having a long existing credit line closed could lower your score.

5. Avoid over-limit fees through responsible spending habits. Credit card issuers have begun to charge fees for opt-in over-limit coverage. By remaining aware of credit limits and balances, consumers can avoid a need for this service and these fees altogether.

6. New regulations do not apply to corporate or small business cards. This means some small business owners might consider using personal cards for business expenses because of fee and rate limitations. However, these owners should remain cautious because their personal credit scores could suffer in the event of missed payments or defaults. Conversely, be aware of companies that are increasing solicitations for corporate card members to avoid new regulations.

For more information, visit www.bills.com.


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Survey: Most Americans Will Still Consider Showing up to Work When Sick

November 11, 2011 3:48 pm

It's going to take more than a cold or flu to get between most Americans and their jobs this cold and flu season, according to a new survey by Halls. The national telephone survey found that most working Americans won't sacrifice a sick day this year for most cold and flu symptoms, including a cough, sore throat, body aches and sinus headache. In fact, nearly half of Americans (44 percent) would consider going to work with a fever, and more than a third of Americans (32 percent) said they would show up to work no matter how sick they get this season.

The results aren't all that surprising based on the country's current economic conditions. With an unemployment rate upwards of nine percent this October, according to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the survey revealed that one in five Americans (19 percent) feel pressure by their boss or supervisor to head into work when they're sick. One in three (31 percent) Americans said they wouldn't get paid for taking off on a sick day, and one in 10 (11 percent) said they would likely fall behind on their bills by taking a sick day. Additionally, more than 10 percent of Americans thought they would not likely receive their next pay raise or promotion, or worse, would lose their job for calling out sick.

When it comes to being prepared this cold and flu season, there are many preventative measures that can be taken in an environment with people who may be sick, including:

• Get Your Flu Shot – The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a yearly seasonal flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against seasonal influenza. However, the good health habits and practices described below can also be helpful.

• Wash Your Hands Often – Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds – that's roughly the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice. Remember, when soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good alternative.

• Cough or Sneeze into Your Elbow – If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the bend of your elbow to prevent the spread of germs.

• Disinfect Common Surfaces – Germs can live for hours, and in some cases, weeks, on common surfaces. Use a disinfectant regularly to wipe and clean doorknobs, phones, remote controls, toys, computer keyboards, and any other items that are shared at home or at the office.

• Practice Good Health Habits – Encourage your family to eat right and exercise. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables provide a loaded source of immune boosting nutrients. Exercising, whether you're walking or playing outdoor games, builds up immune cells in the body and can help you feel more energetic and healthier while increasing your immunity to certain illnesses.

• Drink Plenty of Fluids – Hydrate your body by drinking eight to 10 glasses of water a day to help flush out the system, and to keep your throat moist.

• Rest and Relax – Get as much rest as possible, and try to sleep at least eight or nine hours per night to rejuvenate your body. In addition, try using relaxation techniques that are at your disposal, such as massage, yoga, and meditation.

• Get Fresh Air – A regular dose of fresh air is important, especially in cold weather when central heating dries you out and makes your body more vulnerable to cold and flu viruses. Also, during cold weather more people stay indoors, which means more germs are circulating in crowded, dry rooms.

• Stock Up on the Essentials – Despite taking all these steps, you still may get sick this winter. Be prepared by stocking up on cough drops, tissues, soup, hand sanitizer, vitamins and fever reducer while you're still healthy.

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Word of the Day

November 11, 2011 3:48 pm

Principal. The amount of money borrowed; the amount of money still owed.

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Tips to Help Secure Your Future Financial Health

November 9, 2011 6:46 pm

With so much uncertainty in the current economic climate, one thing’s for sure: protecting your financial health is a top priority. For some who may have lost their jobs—or may know someone who has—there’s a lot to consider.

From health insurance to your plans for retirement, read these tips from Family Wealth Management Group, LLC to help protect your assets and financial future.

—Evaluate your financial health. Review your income, expenses, assets and liabilities. Don't wait until your savings is depleted to alter your spending habits. Even if you have an emergency fund, pinching pennies now will help ensure that money is there when you need it.

—Review your health insurance options. If you have lost your job, some workers and their families (who might otherwise lose their health benefits) have the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

—Investigate unemployment benefits. Workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own and meet other state eligibility requirements, may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits under the Federal-State Unemployment Insurance Program.

—Plan for retirement. Review your pension plan, 401 (k), IRAs, Social Security benefits and other savings plans to assess whether they meet your long-term retirement goals and will generate an income stream to meet your projected expenses.

—Protect your assets. Review your life, disability and long-term care insurance coverage, especially if you are the primary breadwinner. Are they portable (i.e. can you continue the coverage at your present group rate), once you are no longer employed? Ask your financial advisor whether individual coverage is appropriate in lieu of the group coverage and/or to supplement the group coverage.

—Analyze your spending habits. How much do you spend on trips to the market, afternoon lattes, video rentals or dry cleaning? Try to eliminate a portion of these expenses. Home-brewed coffee can shave four dollars a day from your food budget and save up to $120 a month.

—Call your creditors before you fall behind. Don't let the default notices pile up before calling your lenders and credit card companies. These days, many companies are willing to defer or temporarily lower payments, while you look for employment.

—Re-define your financial goals. Redefine where you see yourself in five, 10 or 15 years. You may not be able to retire when you expected to, or pay outright for a four-year college, but instead of saying, "I can't afford it" set new goals and ask, "How can I afford it?"

—Meet with a licensed financial professional. Get professional advice about investment losses, financial products, insurance coverage and other important issues. Addressing your current situation and making choices based upon your new reality will help rebuild your self-confidence and your bottom line.

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8 Tips for Helping Kids Eat Better

November 9, 2011 6:46 pm

Many kids are naturally new-food phobic,” asserts registered dietitian Julie Burns, who is also the mother of 7-year old triplets. “But getting them to eat more of the right foods may not be as difficult as you think.”

For parents hoping to expand and improve their children’s eating habits, Burns shares eight of her tried-and-true tips:

Stick to a schedule – Kids need three meals, two snacks, and lots of fluids daily. If you will be out and about during the day, take along some whole grain crackers, baby carrots, pretzels and bottled water so you don’t have to rely on fast food.
Don’t be a short-order cook – Instead of cooking separate dishes you know your kids will eat, plan meals with a variety of wholesome foods kids can choose from. As family dinners become routine, kids will begin to follow your example and drift toward a more balanced diet.
• Have some fun – Calling broccoli spears “baby trees” or deviled eggs “dinosaur food” helps make foods seem more appealing. Kids who invent names for a variety of foods are more apt to try them. Also, smiley-faced pancakes or sandwiches cut into triangles are usually better—received, as are anything “mini-sized.”
• Dip it – Veggies may be more appealing dipped into ranch dressing or hummus. Try dipping apple slices into low-fat sour cream with a bit of brown sugar added.
Bite your tongue – Try not to comment on what or how much your kids eat. The more you exhort kids to “eat your veggies,” the more they will resist. Stay neutral, keep serving healthy choices, and watch their eating habits improve.
Count on breakfast – Whole grain cereals, with or without some sugar, appeal to young children. Try pancake batter made with whole grain flour, sneak in some fortified soy milk, or cut whole grain bread into cookie-cutter shapes for toast.
Get the kids in the kitchen – When they are old enough, kids can help prepare banana muffins, fruit salads, and other simple foods containing fruits and veggies. If they help make it, they are much more likely to eat it.
• Allow occasional treats – There is nothing wrong with allowing candy or soda once in a while, especially if you are on vacation, at the movies, or at Grandma’s house. Foods that are always strictly forbidden are more likely to be coveted by your kids.


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Break It Down: Interior Designer vs. Decorator

November 9, 2011 6:46 pm

Many people hear the terms “interior designer’ and “interior decorator” thrown around, but they may not understand the difference. According to Cliff Welles, an NCIDQ-certified, practicing interior designer for over 10 years, each job has its own distinct characteristics, with a layer of overlap in between.
“Designers tend to produce more drawn information and plans, whereas Decorators are more associated with personal presentations to clients on space planning, furnishings, palette, and finishes, often (but not always) in residential settings, sometimes including drawings,” writes Welles in the blog Decorating Den.

Welles offers the following explanation on the difference between interior design and interior decoration:
Interior design entails creative and technical solutions applied within a building to enhance the environment to suit the needs of the client. The clients here are often corporate committees or boards. The interior design process includes research, analysis, and integration of knowledge into the creative process. 

Depending upon state regulations, many professionals who usually work on residential projects that a ‘decorator’ is also qualified to do refer to themselves as ‘interior designer,’ partly because there can be interior re-construction, lighting changes, or specification of surface materials and trim elements in the planning process before the ‘decoration’ is applied. Decorators do the very same things in residences. 

Interior decoration typically involves residential space planning, color palette, floor and wall surfaces, window treatments, furniture, accessories, and lighting—particularly for residential applications—and also incorporates elements of functionality and utility, as well as aesthetics. Thus, residential designers and decorators often are involved with selling style and home furnishings rather than ideas and drawn plans for commercial spaces. The career focus is largely a matter of preference or interest, as is the nomenclature (unless regulated by the state). 

Source: http://yourdesigncareerishere.wordpress.com

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Tips for Traveling with Kids

November 9, 2011 6:46 pm

Flying with children in tow can seem daunting. Reduce the hassle and stress by following these tips from the travel experts at The GO Group, LLC.

• Avoid flying during prime time and instead choose flights in the middle of the week and middle of the morning. Never take the last flight of the day to avoid being stranded at the airport due to delays.
• Let young children know what to expect at the airport to avoid meltdowns. It even helps to "practice" standing in line and going through security at home.
• Consider booking a private van or shared ride airport shuttle service. Most will pick you and your family up at home in a vehicle with plenty of room for luggage, gifts and gear.
• Purchase snap-on wheels for infant car seats if your baby will be riding in one. These can be taken onto the plane but should be disassembled prior to check in. While the FAA has no standards for flying with children, several companies offer portable safety restraints, chairs and vests for infants and toddlers, including Kids Fly Safe and Baby B'Air.
• Use the security lane designated for families. Babies need to be removed from carriers and strollers which then need to be placed on the X-ray belt. Children must walk independently through scanners, but the TSA is not allowed to separate children from parents or guardians. Children under the age of 12 no longer must remove their shoes. Visit the TSA website for complete rules.
• Toys, portable DVD players or iPads are a must to keep antsy children entertained. Bring gum and candy to help young ears adjust to changing air pressure. Keep lots of wipes handy, too.

Preparation and advanced knowledge of available options are keys to minimizing anxiety and stress when traveling with children. Other travelers will appreciate your efficiency, too!

For more information, visit www.goairportshuttle.com.

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Word of the Day

November 9, 2011 6:46 pm

Point. Fee charged by a lender to get additional revenue over the interest rate. A point is equal to one percent of the loan amount.

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Question of the Day

November 9, 2011 6:46 pm

Q: Why do I need an agent if I can find a home by myself on the Internet?

A: While more buyers now use the Internet to gain access to listings, or available properties for sale, it is still a good idea to use an agent. The agent brings value to the entire process: he or she is available to analyze data, answer questions, share their professional expertise, and handle all the paperwork and legwork that is involved in the real estate transaction.

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How to Work Successfully with a Home Decorator

November 9, 2011 3:46 pm

Once considered a luxury, decorating services are more of a necessity for today's busy homeowners who simply can't afford to make costly mistakes, or run all around town trying to 'pull it together' from retail stores, or worse—the Internet. The experts at Decorating Den Interiors offer this pertinent advice to homeowners seeking professional guidance in their home decor. 

The best professional to decorate your home will most likely come from a combination of compatible personalities and tastes. Remember that you will be working together for several weeks, if not months. During your initial consultation, ask to review the (online?) portfolio of the designer or decorator to assure yourself that (s)he is capable of working in diverse styles, and that your personalities are fairly compatible. 

Working with a professional should be an enjoyable experience. Since interior decorating projects are highly personal and collaborative, the final results are always much more successful when the lines of communication are open and ideas are freely discussed. Be candid with your designer regarding such important elements as priorities, timing, budgets and tastes. If a style, color or home furnishings suggestion is one that you do not care for, feel free to say so early on, and provide a new direction for your team. 

To ensure that you get off to the right start and to also get the results you are looking for, keep in mind the following tips: 

Be a keen observer. Consciously make note of what catches your interest as you peruse decorating magazines and the internet for interesting rooms and makeovers. Start a file of colors, patterns and designs that appeal to you. You may notice a chandelier, mirror, color combination or window treatment that you like. Once you clip and track these for a brief period, you will be better able to draw a conclusion as to your personal style and convey that to your new decorating professional. It’s really all about communication, once you’ve decided with whom to work. 

Take an honest inventory of your existing décor to determine which pieces you want to keep. Assess your furnishings the way you periodically review your wardrobe. Plan to keep the pieces you truly love and put all others on the ‘to-be-replaced-eventually’ list. 

Based upon your initial consultation, your designer should present you with fabric samples, sketches and pictures for your evaluation. Since professionals have access to a world of options unavailable in retail stores, be reasonable about asking to see more and more of everything available. Remember that the first two or three designs you are shown will be, in the decorator's opinion, the best looks for your home and your taste. One of the most important services a professional provides is sparing you the confusion of the unlimited choices available. Trust your designer's advice and stay focused on the overall design goal. 

Give your decorator some latitude to decide for you the small details such as trims, pillows, accessories. Your project will move forward more smoothly if (s)he doesn't have to get your approval on every button and candle. 

Just remember that all change—even for the better—requires a period of adjustment. Most homeowners who have redecorated their home will be quick to tell you "I should have done it long ago!" 

For more information, visit http://www.HowToBecomeAnInteriorDesigner.com.


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